Stephen Lau's website to help you get the wisdom to live as if everything is a miracle.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Choice of Words

Writing has to do with words, in particular, the choice of words. A good stock of vocabulary is of course important. But other than that, you also need to know the exact meaning of each word so that you will use it correctly. There are many words that may sound similar, but they have different meanings, and thus they are confusing. 

Mellow / Melodious

Mellow: mature; soft and pure; rich and full.
e.g. As he continues to age, he become more mellow and compassionate.
Melodious: tuneful; pleasant to the ear.
e.g. He voice is melodious; he should take up singing.

Reign Rein

Reign means to rule over; rein means to control (e.g. an animal)
e.g. The emperor reigned over the country for decades.
e.g. You must rein in your hot temper.
e.g. Beware of giving free rein to your reason. (i.e. not release from any restraint).

Defuse / Diffuse

Defuse means to decrease the danger, such as deactivate a bomb; diffuse means to spread over a wide area.
e.g. It is difficult to defuse the conflicts in the Middle East.
e.g. Once you open the bottle of fragrant herbs, their scents will diffuse.

Genteel / Gentle

Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich.
e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he very rich?
e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.

Faint / Feint

Faint (both as a noun and a verb) means loss of consciousness; feint means a misleading attack.
e.g. She fainted when she heard the bad news.
e.g. The robber, who gave a feint, began to attack the policeman.

Studio / Studious

Studio: a place where pictures are taken, or films are made.
e.g. The film was made in a Hollywood studio.
Studious: fond of study; careful and thoughtful.
e.g. To be a good scientist, you must be studious.

Hail / Hale

Hail means to greet or salute; hale means healthy and strong.
e.g. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee."
e.g. A man is hale when his complexion is rosy.
e.g. This dress is too loose for you (not tight enough).

Some time / Sometime / Sometimes

Some time means a period of time.
Sometime, as an adverb, means approximately; as an adjective, means former or occasional.
Sometimes, as an adverb, means now and then.
e.g. We have been for the train for some time.
e.g. Why don't you visit me sometime?
e.g. She was my sometime girlfriend.
e.g. Sometimes I like her, and sometimes I don't -- that's our relationship.

Accountable to / Accountable for

Accountable to means responsible to someone; accountable for means responsible for something or having to explain.

e.g. The Manager has to be accountable to the Board; he has to be accountable for all his business decisions.

Lose Loose

Lose means being unable to find; loose means to set free or to become less tight.
e.g. Here is your ticket to the game; don't lose it.
e.g. Don't lose your temper (become angry).
e.g. You are too loose with your children (you have little or no control over them).

Impersonate / Personate

Impersonate is to copy or imitate a person for fun; personate is to claim to be another person with the purpose to cheat or deceive.

e.g. The comedian impersonated the President to entertain the audience.
e.g. Someone personated the client, and took the money.

Recourse / Resort

Recourse means turning to others or something for help; resort means to turn to for help (both noun and verb).

e.g. His only recourse was the police.
e.g. The police should not resort to violence to stop the peaceful demonstration.
e.g. The army decided using violence as the last resort.

Decorative / Decorous

Decorative: having an artistic or showy effect.
e.g. The ballroom with all the ribbons and flowers are very decorative.
Decorous: showing good taste.
e.g. The Princess looks decorous in that simple but elegant dress.

Foul / Fowl

Foul means dirty or offensive; fowl  a fowl is a bird, such as hen.
e.g. The smoke from that factory fouls the air. (as a verb)
e.g. He always speak foul language, even in the presence of ladies. (as an adjective)
e.g. We are going to have a roast fowl for Thanksgiving.

Admit / Admit of

Admit means to confess an act; admit of means allow of or leave room for.

e.g. He did not admit taking the key without permission.
e.g. The circumstance admits of no delay.
e.g. His admission of guilt shows his honest personality.
e.g. There is no admittance for error.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, January 18, 2019

Misuse of the Semi-Colon

Misuse of the Semi-Colon

The Semicolon is one of the punctuation marks frequently misused in writing.

A semicolon is used between a dependent clause and an independent clause.

e.g. Although he was very tired; he did not want to go to bed. (incorrect)

e.g. Although he was very tiredhe did not want to got to bed. (a comma should be used instead)

A semicolon is used to introduce a list.

e.g. The box was filled with everything but booksclothing, snacks, hammers and tools. (incorrect)

e.g. The box was filled with everything but booksclothing, snacks, hammers and tools. (a colon should be used instead)

A semicolon is not used between an introductory phrase and the rest of the sentence.

e.g. Her hands tremblingshe managed to pour the toxic liquid into the tube. (incorrect)

e.g. Her hands tremblingshe managed to pour the toxic liquid into the tube (a comma should be used instead)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Grammar Basics

Effective writing means knowing, learning, and understanding the grammar basics

 

Knowing the Grammatical Terms

Knowing the rules of grammar does not mean you will become a good writer, but it will certainly help you avoid bad writing. In addition, knowing the essentials of grammar may give you the following advantages:

Avoiding grammatical errors

Providing clarity to your writing

Giving credibility to your readers

Knowing grammatical terms is essential for effective writing because these grammatical terms provide a common language for talking about good writing.

Knowing the Eight Parts of Speech

Knowing grammar basics means knowing the eight parts of speech in English words and writing: 

NOUNS

A noun names a person, place, or thing.

A noun can be singular (referring to only one) or plural (referring to more than one). Generally, you make a singular noun plural by adding an “s”; however, some nouns do not follow this general rule:

e.g. enemy becomes enemies

e.g. goose becomes geese

e.g. hero becomes heroes

e.g. sheep remains sheep

Some nouns are countable, e.g. books, while some are not, e.g. hunger.

A noun can be possessive (indicating ownership).

e.g. Tom and Jerry’s house (NOT Tom’s and Jerry’s house)

e.g. Jesus sayings (NOT Jesus’s sayings)

e.g. the bottom of the page (NOT the page’s bottom)

e.g. the characters of Star Wars (NOT Star Wars characters)

A noun MUST AGREE with a verb in a sentence, that is, a singular noun requiring a singular verb, and a plural noun requiring a plural verb.

e.g. The data indicate (NOT indicates) that there is a strong demand for this type of goods. (data is the plural form of datum.)

e.g. The criteria for selection are based (NOT is) on the recommendations of the trustees. (criteria is plural)

e.g. Human rights is an important issue in this country. (singular: human rights treated as a single unit and thus requiring a singular verb)

e.g.Human rights are ignored in many parts of the world. (plural: human rights considered individual rights of people)

e.g. Four thousand dollars is a lot of money to me. (singular: a monetary unit)

A proper noun names a specific person, place, or event, e.g. Tom Cruise, Chicago, and World War I.

A proper noun is always capitalized, e.g. The Great Depression (BUT an economic depression).

VERBS

A verb expresses an action or a state of being.

Action verbs give life to sentences.

e.g. The police officer shot the suspect.

e.g. The bomb exploded.

e.g. He jumped for joy when he heard the good news.

Linking verbs complete sentences but without expressing any action.

e.g. We were unhappy.

e.g. My sister is a school teacher.

e.g. I have no money.

Some verbs can be both linking and action verbs.

e.g. The dish smells delicious. (The linking verb links to the quality of the smell; therefore, it is WRONG to say: “The dish smells deliciously.”)

e.g. The security guard’s dog smelled the man’s luggage. (an action verb)

A transitive verb carries an object; an intransitive verb does not.

e.g. The burglar took the money. (direct object: money)

e.g. My parents sent me some money. (direct object: money; indirect object: me )

e.g. The child is sleeping like a baby. (an intransitive verb)

Many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive.

e.g. We are eating our dinner. (transitive)

e.g. They are eating. (intransitive)

e.g. She sings folk songs. (transitive)

e.g. She sings beautifully. (intransitive)

Only transitive verbs can be used in the passive voice.

e.g. The suspect was shot by the police officer.

e.g. The money was taken by the burglar.

e.g. The money was sent by my parents.

Of course, there are other parts of speech you need to learn, as well, including adverbs, pronouns, adjectives, and prepositions etc. Once you are familiar with the grammar basics, then you can begin writing. With more practice, you can become an effective writing.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Learn Some English Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Go the whole hog: go through thoroughly.
e.g. The prosecutor went the whole hog when he inspected the murder weapon.

Bushed: exhausted.
e.g. After a hard day at the office, I'm completely bushed.

Get the sack: fired; be dismissed from work.
e.g. The company was downsizing, and he got the sack.

Easy on the eye: good looking.
e.g. I say, your girlfriend is easy on the eye.
Act your age: behave yourself according to your age..
e.g. You’re almost an adult. Come on, act your age, and stop behaving like a spoiled brat!
Get with it: hurry up and get busy.
e.g. Come on, get with it; we’ve a lot to do.

In for it: likely to have trouble.
e.g. If you don't listen to my advice, you're in for it.
No oil painting: ugly.
e.g. To tell the truth, the dress you bought me is no oil painting.

By a long chalk: by a great amount.
e.g. He lost his re-election by a long chalk.

Get wise to: discover; realize.
e.g. Soon you’ll get wise to what is really happening under the roof.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Do You Use These Colloquial Expressions?


No can do: I cannot do it..

e.g. "Can you do this now?" "No can do.”

Try as I may: I regret or fail to do something.

e.g. "Can you do something with this machine?" "Try as I may, I can't make it work."

Worst-case scenario: the worst consequence.

e.g.  A blizzard is coming. The worst-case scenario is that all public transport will be suspended.

Pipe dreamSomething impossible or unrealistic

e.g. The Mayor said that building another highway would be a pipe dream in the current economic environment.

Not budging / Not giving an inch / Sticking to my gunsBeing firm.

e.g. "We're not going to cancel the charges. We're not budging."
e.g. Despite the protests, the government would not give an inch.
e.g.  "I'm not moving out. That's out of the question. I'm sticking to my guns."

See to it right awayTake care of a complaint or problem.

e.g. "The tap is leaking." "Yes, I'll see to it right away."

Call for an apologyDemand an apology.

e.g. Your reckless behavior calls for an apology.

In a nutshellIn summary

e.g. "We're having serious financial and relationship problems." "In a nutshell, you want to divorce your wife?"

No can do: I cannot do it..

e.g. "Can you do this now?" "No can do.”

Beats me: I don't know; I've no idea.

e.g. "Do you know how this works?" "Bets me."

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau